Ashleigh Julia Maiden was the third of five children born to a mother who went from simply not coping to being almost bedridden with depression.
Wendy, Ashleigh’s eldest sibling, did her best to run the house while their father worked fourteen hour days away from the home.
When Ashleigh was ten, her mother made her first suicide attempt, swallowing a lot of pills.
Ashleigh learned one thing that stayed with her her entire life; never have babies. Never, ever have babies because they only break you, make you miserable, keep you down.
Ashleigh met Ryan Austen on their first day at university, they were both studying to be registered nurses. Ryan asked her out the second time they took the same lecture.
They went out for a Chinese meal, and got on like a house on fire.
Ryan was the eldest of four boys and they swapped stories about growing up in a big family.
On their first date, Ashleigh had blurted out that she would never want to have children. Not ever. Ryan had laughed and said me either. They had fallen in love quickly.
When they went out, if they saw couples with kids, they’d share a secret smile. Crying babies had them reaching out for one another’s hands.
Ashleigh used to joke that she was born without the ability to get clucky, without a biological clock.
Their siblings, meantime, produced nieces and nephews at a fast rate. Ashleigh enjoyed playing the favourite Aunty. She loved and spoiled those kids. She hosted girly sleepovers and she and Ryan took the kids camping. They did it all on their own terms.
She acted as birth partner for one of her brothers wives and the experience, as incredible as it was, only confirmed her and Ryans choice.
Ashleigh got a plum job as a critical care nurse in a big city private hospital. Ryan went into Aged Care, working in a nursing home in the suburbs.
They had their perfect life. Nothing could spoil it. Except maybe an unplanned pregnancy.